Errowyn had served the Guardians for as long as she could remember. Her days were filled with performing such mundane tasks as sweeping the floors and dusting the shelves that were lined with rows and rows of ornate boxes. She had no idea what each box contained, but she knew that the Guardians had apprentices who guarded those boxes.

Each apprentice was given responsibility for one box. They alone knew the code that would turn off the force field that held each box in place on the shelf. Each apprentice wore a key around his or her neck that fit into the ornate lock mechanism which covered the front of each box.

One day in Errowyn's sixteenth year Asmoth, the most ancient of the Guardians, called her into his private chamber. "Errowyn you have served us well for many years without complaint," Asmoth said, with a trace of a smile on his lips. "It is the consensus of the Council that you be given custody of a box."

Her heart started beating faster and her head started to swim as she clasped her hands and murmured, "Thank you! Thank you, Lord Asmoth."

"Oh, don't get overly excited," he groused, "it's not a very important box."

He led her through the labyrinth of shelves filled with boxes. Finally, at the far corner of the cavernous room on a bottom shelf stood a box that was somewhat smaller than the others which surrounded it.

"This box will be your responsibility," Asmoth intoned. " After you have taken six months of instruction with Lady Qwenith you will undergo a purifying ceremony. Only then will you be qualified to take responsibility for the box. Each morning you will make your way here and verify that the box is here and still intact. You will check on the box again before you retire. Periodically, as we feel it is necessary, the Guardians will ask that you bring the box into our inner chamber. You will deliver the key (which should otherwise remain around your neck at all times) with the box, you will then leave the room and wait outside until you are summoned to return the box to its proper resting place."

Errowyn nodded her head mutely, afraid to interrupt the towering Guardian.

Asmoth continued, "You are under no circumstances to attempt to open the box yourself. Dire consequences will occur if you do. Do you understand all that I have told you?"

Errowyn continued to nod. She was so excited that she felt she could hardly breathe, in fact, she realized that she had been holding her breath for a long time and, with a rush exhaled deeply.

"All right, all right, enough child! Be off with you! Lady Qwenith is ready to start your instructions. You don't want to be late on your first day of apprentice training."

Throughout the morning Lady Qwenith droned on about how honored each candidate should be to be considered for apprenticeship. Errowyn could only think of the key which hung around her neck a tangible symbol of the awesome responsibility she would soon have.

As soon as the apprentices were dismissed for a quick lunch, Errowyn stole quietly to the back of the labyrinth which held the boxes. She stopped short before the small box which was now her responsibility. Her hands were involuntarily drawn to the box. As she touched it, an electric charge seemed to course through her body. She suddenly grabbed the box and quickly hid it under her cloak. She scurried along the hall and then into her sleeping chamber. She told herself that she only wanted to examine the box. After all, if this was to be her responsibility then she needed to know everything about it didn't she? Slowly she turned the box over and over in her hand. It was surprisingly heavy and the intricate design on the box seemed to change as soon as she looked away.

Suddenly the key seemed to glow warmly against her homespun dress. It also seemed to grow heavier and weighed down the silken cord around her neck. Hesitantly, her right hand reached for the key as if it had a will of its own. She found that she was clutching the small box against her chest in her left hand. Before she realized what she was doing she was fitting the key into the intricate lock. The lock mechanism worked quite smoothly and, after a quarter turn, the key feel out of the lock and came to rest quite softly again around her neck.

She set the box upon her writing table and took a step backwards. The sun streamed in and seemed to make the box sparkle. Again the surface of the box seemed to change and swirl its intricate pattern just outside her range of vision. She stared at it for some time and then ever so slowly she inched forward until she was again reaching for the box. Her hand slowly lifted the lid of the box a fraction of an inch. Abruptly the lid of the box slammed open and tales of wonder stared rushing out of the box. Amazingly for some reason she knew each story intimately as it would swirl past her vision around the room. She saw Egyptian overseers forcing slaves to build a pyramid in ancient Egypt. Looking to the right she saw Benjamin Franklin flying a kite in a thunderstorm and just as suddenly she saw a Neanderthal hunter stalking a woolly mammoth. Turning her head to the left she heard screeching metal and then saw Princess Diana's Mercedes sedan crash into a pillar on the Paris freeway.

She was unaware of the passage of time as she watched the tales whirl around her as she seemed rooted to the spot. The stories seemed to rush out of the box faster and faster. She was thinking, "My God! What have I done? I only wanted to examine the box. I didn't mean to open it. I think it made me! I couldn't help myself! I just couldn't help myself!"


With superhuman effort Asmoth inched himself forward until he was standing beside the cowering Errowyn. As if with the same thought they both leaned forward and looked into the box. They could see that only one story remained nestled in the corner. It was starting to swirl slowly and they realized that this tale was the final story---The story of Earth's destruction.

With superhuman effort Lord Asmoth reached forward and slammed the lid closed before the last tale of wonder had a chance to escape. Magically as he did so, the other stories rushed out of the open window and quickly disappeared from sight. Asmoth and Errowyn collapsed in an unconscious heap on the floor of the tiny sleeping chamber.

As darkness descended they regained consciousness. Errowyn gave a terrified look at Asmoth and quietly said, "What happens now?"

Sorrowfully, Asmoth said, "Child, you have set an unchanging course of history for a small planet in a distant solar system called Earth. It is no longer within our power to control Earth's history. This tiny planet is now in control of its own destiny. As the Guardians of History we have always controlled the history of each planet. We carefully weave a holding spell before we open each box. Each holding spell is so strong than only one story is released at a time. We can then examine this story at length and make any changes that would benefit the history of the planet. It has worked this way for a thousand of years. In all that time no apprentice has ever betrayed their trust as you have done. If only you had waited until the purifying ceremony----."

"Child, I thought you understood that it is our duty to determine history. These puny creatures who inhabit the planets we monitor are not capable of making decisions of that sort."

Errowyn thought of the myriad of stories she had seen before they escaped and with a smile thought, "Well, you know, those earthlings just might have a different opinion about that."

In her heart, she knew that as soon as she could manage to steal back to the labyrinth undetected she would open the box one last time.

The End

Copyright 1997 by Barbara Blann

About the writer in her own words: " I have a non-fiction book about my son's struggle with cancer currently being submitted to publishers and I have had several poems published in minor publications. This is my first attempt at fantasy/sci-fi. I am a committed Anglophile, love to travel and I am an avid reader. I live in Franklin, TN (a suburb of Nashville and the nearest thing to heaven I've seen) with my English Professor husband and daughter. No, I am not a country music fan and I have not been to the Grande Ole Opry."

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